Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Wach auf, meins Herzens Schöne
From 14 Deutsche Volkslieder for mixed choir WoO 34 (1864)
From 12 Deutsche Volkslieder for mixed choir WoO posth. 35 (c.1864)
Drei Quartette op.31 (1859-63)
From Drei Quartette op.64 (1862-74)
From Lieder und Romanzen Op. 93a (c.1890)
From 6 Klavierstücke op.118: No.1 and No.6 (1893)
Ballade, Op. 10 No. 4
Anne Le Bozec (piano), Vocalensemble Rastatt/Holger Speck
rec. September 2009, Hans-Rosbaud-Studio, Baden-Baden. DDD
Texts in German included, with English translation.
See full track-listing and timings after the review.
CARUS 83.448 [63:52]

Brahms must have had some kind of Midas touch. Whatever he touched turned to a treasury of … well, Brahms … and in a good sense. And so when he arranged a collection of folk-songs, they all turned into siblings of his Liebeslieder and lullabies. The folk-songs, arranged for mixed chorus, occupy about half of the program on this disc. The rest drawn from his vocal Quartets for mixed choir and piano, and, as a surprise, there are three pieces for solo piano that separate substantial stretches of choral music.

Most of these songs inhabit the lands far distant from the Romantic kingdom of drama and melancholy. The overall impression is of warm and calm. The singing of the Vocalensemble Rastatt is smooth and stylish. Even in the most difficult passages it sounds feather-light and effortless. The singers are clearly enjoying what they are doing. The faster numbers are cheerful and bouncy, the slower ones atmospheric and soulful. Everywhere subtle nuances are in place. The diction is perfect, and the hissing s-s and z-s, which can be a plague for German choral singing, are compact and accurate. For each song the conductor Holger Speck chooses just the right tempo.

Brahms, as always, is torn between two poles: the old and the new, the “Rome-antique” and the Romantic. But he also had a gift for locating a satisfying equilibrium. The result, as it often came from his hands, looks like a wedding gown sewn out of quilted blankets. On the other hand it is so invitingly comfortable and many of the melodies are instantly memorable.

The idea of inserting three pure instrumental pieces was ingenious. In other circumstances it could look artificial; here it really works. It refreshes the feelings, and allows us to continue and enjoy the singing without getting bored. Anne Le Bozec plays with a delicate and soft touch. She is expressive, yet with perfect Brahmsian restraint. She is also a sensitive accompanist in the Quartets.

The recording is as clear as the morning air, and captures well all levels of the choir. The liner-note is in German, English and French, and contains an essay on the songs, by Jakob Hauschildt. The full texts of the songs are included, along with their English translations. Listening to this disc gave me a lot of pleasure, and I am sure that this warm and elegant performance will delight many lovers of choral singing.

Oleg Ledeniov

Warm and elegant.

Des Abends, WoO posth.35 No.6 [1:29]
Bei nächtlicher Weil, WoO 34 No.3 [2:15]
Die Wollust in den Maien, WoO 34 No.11 [1:26]
Erlaube mir, fein's Mädchen, WoO posth.35 No.3 [1:32]
Da unten im Tale, WoO posth.35 No.5 [1:40]
Intermezzo in A minor, Op.118 No. 1 [2:13]
Wach auf meins Herzens Schöne, WoO posth.35 No.2 [2:24]
Der tote Knabe, WoO 34 No.10 [1:44]
Dort in den Weiden, WoO posth.35 No.8 [1:01]
In stiller Nacht, WoO 34 No.8 [2:21]
Wechsellied zum Tanze, Op.31 No.1 [6:04]
Neckereien, Op.31 No.2 [2:24]
Der Gang Zum Liebchen, Op.31 No.3 [2:47]
Intermezzo in E flat minor, Op.118 No. 6 [4:56]
Der bucklichte Fiedler, Op.93a No.1 [1:49]
Mit Lust tät ich ausreiten, WoO 34 No.2 [1:48]
Sankt Raphael, WoO 34 No.7 [2:13]
Schnitter Tod, WoO 34 No.13 [2:05]
Abschiedslied, WoO 34 No.9 [2:57]
Ballade, Op. 10 No. 4
An die Heimat, Op.64 No.1 [5:21]
Der Abend, Op.64 No.2 [4:37]